Beatles statues in Liverpool

Sport returns to England, in the form of the Premier League, but with no spectators. Chelsea defeat Manchester City, and Liverpool are therefore the 2020 Champions.

Liverpool is very pleased about that:

The Liverpool Police, however, are not pleased.

I encountered the above photo here. I suppose that’s one way to learn about some statues for the first time.

These Beatles statues will surely not be vandalism by the BLMers, although if they decide to do this, I’m sure they’ll have no trouble cooking up an excuse. I mean, the Beatles surely did done some cultural appropriating of black music, aka performing it, that being what British sixties rock ‘n’ roll was all about. (The Rolling Stones definitely did.) And then, black Americans had a listen to the Beatles and culturally appropriated right back, often with results that delighted and amazed the Beatles. At the time, only racists objected to this to-ing-and fro-ing of music. Everyone else was very happy about it.

Howard Goodall on the world’s first recording star

I’ve been dipping into Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs, which is a book (based on a BBC TV show), whose subtitle is “The Story of Five Discoveries That Changed Musical History”. I have started at the end, with Bang Number Five, which was when Edison recorded sound. Here’s what Goodall says about the impact of the nascent sound recording industry on the life and career of Enrico Caruso (pp. 218-220):

Enrico Caruso was one of seven children born to a working-class Neapolitan family living in the Via San Giovanello. He received his first singing instruction as a choirboy in a local church, and as a teenager he made a few lire every night singing favourite Neapolitan songs for the cafe customers on the harbour waterfront. He began work in a factory, but eventually he was able to turn professional with his outstanding voice. After a shaky debut in Naples – he vowed never to perform there again – he was invited to sing at the holiest of all opera’s shrines, La Scala, Milan. It was here in March 1902 that Fred Gaisberg, the Gramophone Company’s European representative, heard Caruso performing in Franchetti’s popular opera Germania. Gaisberg offered the young unknown a deal to record ten arias for £100; Caruso duly accepted the offer, to the horror of Gaisberg’s London office, which tried to forbid the spending of ‘this exorbitant sum’. Gaisberg, however, backed his hunch, using his own money. That April, in Suite 301 in the Grand Hotel, Milan, the ten records were cut, beginning with ‘Studenti, Udite’ from Germania. Gaisberg went on to recoup his investment thousands of times over – and the records earned his company a fortune.

Most of the ten masters made on that occasion remain in perfect condition to this day. After their release, Caruso’s fame spread dramatically throughout Europe and America. He made two recordings, in 1902 and 1907, of the aria ‘Vesti la giubba’, from Leoncavallo’s opera I Pagliacci, which between them sold over a million copies. I Pagliacci was at this time a relatively new opera (it was given its first stage performance in 1892), based on a recent real-life criminal case. It’s hard to find a modern equivalent for this – a modern opera being as commercially successful as I Pagliacci. Even the hit records released from the shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber are based on stories from the past (Evita is probably his most contemporary non-fiction subject). As for the work of contemporary ‘classical’ composers, the thought of Harrison Birtwistle writing an opera which included a million-selling song is, let’s face it, laughable.

Caruso was to the early gramophone what Frank Sinatra or Maria Callas were to the LP, what Elvis Presley and the Beatles were to the 45-rpm ‘single’, and what Dire Straits and George Michael were to the compact disc: the ‘software’ of the music that drew listeners to the ‘hardware’ of the machines and materials. He was the first recording megastar, as much a household name in his day as Charlie Chaplin, prodigal son of another medium also in its infancy. Caruso’s voice had a timbre and range that perfectly suited the limitations of the medium, it could soar and tremble with such strength and depth that the background hiss and the indistinct accompaniment were all but forgotten. To many people, hearing him scale the summits of high opera was both miraculous and moving and this was not just their first experience of the true potential of the gramophone but also a gateway to the whole classical repertoire.

Edison’s humble contraption was to become a universal gift with the popularity of Caruso, catapulting classical music out of the small, exclusive world it had hitherto known.

The Gramophone and Victor Companies were buoyed by Caruso’s success. What’s more, all the other top singers now wanted a piece of the action, hurriedly dropping their objections to the quality of the medium once they realised that it could make them rich. The female equivalent of Caruso was Nellie Melba, an Australian soprano with a peach of a voice, and a good head for business, who held out until she got £1,000 – and her own label in passionate mauve.

Venus on the South Bank

October 20th 2007 was a good day for me photoing photoers, and I’ve just set aside thirty five photoers to stick up here. But, because of the lateness of the hour, that will take too long to sort out now, even given how much easier such photo-clutch displaying has now become. So here, in the meantime, is some Art that I photoed on that same expedition, in among photoing all those photoers:

The painting on the left is The Birth of Venus, complete with her strategically long, blond hair. But what is the one on the right? (Aside from not being quite finished.)

Closer up:

I see an angel and a Madonna. I wonder if googling will yield anything.

No luck. Lots of Madonnas, of the modern Italian-American and pop-singing sort, and lots of this famous painting. But nothing like the painting above. So, commenters?

Pop musicians who are (or were) also model railway enthusiasts

Anything Jools Holland can do …:

… Sir Rod Stewart can do better:

I first learned of this via Twitter, as a result of following comedian Simon Evans, who liked this.

The Telegraph dug up as many celebrity toy trainsters as it could find, as reported in this piece. The only ones who are not popular musicians are Peters Snow and Sellers, although even Sellers had a hit or two. For me, the big surprises were Johnny Cash and … Frank Sinatra. Sinatra, imagine it. Did the rest of the Rat Pack even know? If they had, I reckon they’d have expelled him. Or maybe killed and eaten him.

So, Rob, your sons are going to be pop stars. Well, perhaps not. I am unfamiliar with the details of this subculture, but it is my understanding that not all model railway enthusiasts are pop stars. Like many causal links, this one may not work if reversed. But the link between being keen on making music and keen on making toy train layouts might be stronger than random, I think.

Mariah says to eat crisps for Christmas

A feature, by which I mean a bug, of Growing old is that all the heartfelt love songs of earlier times are now recycled by their original performers to sell sofas, deodorants, food, etc..

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey is one of my most favourite pop songs, long before sophisticates came around to realising how good it was. (Same with Abba. I loved them from the moment they won Eurovision, before even the Gays noticed them. With the greatest pop songs of a certain vintage, the rule was: Me, Gays, Girls, The Public.)

But now, it turns out that all Mariah Carey really wants for Christmas is …:

… a packet of potato crisps.

Personally I like potato crisps, hence my possession of this crisp packet. But, I despise almost all crisp advertising. What crisp advertising ought to say is: Yes, our crisps are probably bad for you if you scoff too many of them, but they taste terrific, even the plane old salt-flavoured ones. But oh no. Instead, they bribe celebs whose successes in life have been based on not scoffing crisps or similar products, to tell the rest of us to do this, by pretending that they do too, and thereby to imply that crisps are good for you. The more you scoff them, the thinner you’ll be and the better you’ll be at football, and you’ll be athletic enough to win an Olympic medal.

The thing is, though, that Mariah Carey has had serious difficulty staying slim, and she might actually be telling the truth, in now claiming to prefer crisps to the sort of boyfriend she could have when she was young and effortlessly slim and when the world was at her feet.

Photos of Denise Ho at the ASI

Earlier this evening I attended an event at which Denise Ho answered questions put to her by an ASI guy, about the unfolding situation in Hong Kong. I photoed her:

Very impressive.

Short summary. The protests continue, and the way for her side to win is to universalise the struggle, turning it from a merely local battle, which China is bound to win, into a global argument, which China is a lot less likely to win. Hence her presence in London (and many other spots around the world) to tell people about what’s happening in Hong Kong.

I heard another talk about Hong Kong on Monday that covered a lot of the same ground. My question then (which I thought rather than actually asked) was: What can we do to help? Answer, from Denise Ho this evening: a lot. Because “we” means everyone else in the world who wants to help.

BMQotD: Gallagher on Gallagher

Noel Gallagher of pop combo Oasis on Liam Ditto:

He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup.

Heard it (from actor Ralf Little) while TV-channel hopping. Then googled it, and it turns out there are nineteen other amusing things said by Noel Gallagher to enjoy also.

Now thrive the scaffolders: Videoing Kent v Surrey

That expedition to Beckenham, to watch Kent and Surrey play cricket against each other was fun, what with all the cricket to be watched:

But after ruminating on the photos I took, I now find that one of the more interesting things that I saw and photoed was just off the playing area.

To be more precise, they were to be seen on the far right of the above photo. Here’s a crop from within the above photo that zooms (but only digitally) in on what I am referring to:

That thing that you see there is the sight screen, placed there to enable batsmen to see the balls more clearly as they propelled towards them by the bowlers. Don’t move near this thing when the bowler is bowling from this end. Sacrilege! Delay!

But now, please notice the bit of disembodied scaffolding sticking up above this sight screen, at the right hand end of the sight screen.

Happily, I realised at the time I was there (this does not always happen) that this is something I would be interested in. I took a much closer look:

On the left there, the back of the sight screen, and on the right, the object of my interest.

What is it doing?

This:

Another view of the same gizmology:

I think I spy there no less than three video cameras, which are, like the sight screen, directly behind the bowler as he comes in to bowl. And high enough above the action to see the batsman’s efforts to respond to the bowler’s efforts to see the batsman clearly, without the bowler getting in the way.

Here’s a still from the output of one of those cameras, on the day I was there, which I captured here:

If you watch some of that video, you will note that all the videoing, no matter which end the bowler is bowling from, is from the same end. Which explains why I was unable to find any trace of video cameras near the sight screen on the other side of the ground.

Whatev. Such videoing has absolutely transformed my enjoyment of county cricket. As I type this posting in for the first time, I also have on my computer screen a live feed from the Oval, of the final day of the return fixture between Surrey and Kent. Surrey are struggling, but not out of it yet. In the video capture above we see Sam Curran batting. He’s batter at the Oval now, and a lot depends on him.

It’s been fun watching these video feeds get slowly better, with more stationary cameras being added. The destination that all this is leading to is that all county cricket grounds will be smothered in video cameras (just like the rest of the world) and one guy in a van will be able to edit it all together to the point where you might as well be watching the Sky TV coverage of, say, a World Cup Semi-Final between India and New Zealand, which also happens to going on right now (but which I am not watching because I don’t have Sky). Wow. India, replying to NZ’s (surely) below par 239, are 5 for 2. Rohit and Kohli both gone! Make that 5 for 3!!! Rahul also gone. Cricket. Bloody hell.

But I digress. I’ll end the photos in this posting with a photo of the little tents from where the spoken commentary was done, on that day in Beckenham:

The guy in the blue jeans there is Surrey commentating legend Mark Church.

One of the great things about both video and radio feeds from cricket games these days is that when something sensational happens, you can immediately go there and listen to/watch all the drama, by shoving that line a bit backwards. You couldn’t do that with the old donkey powered radio sets of my youth.

As soon as I’m done here, I will be listening to Aggers and Co yelling with amazement about those early Indian wickets. (Well well, the yellow BBC line, for now anyway, refuses to move back from what is happening right now. Shame.)

Anyway, back to scaffolding. Do I have to insist on what a contribution to modern life scaffolding is now making? Well, I hereby do. And it’s not just for new buildings, or for prettying up existing buildings. Here we see a characteristic use of scaffolding, to prop up some new technology, while they are still working out exactly how to do everything. Where exactly should the kit be? How high? How easy does it need to be to fiddle about with. What is the best way to organised all The Wires!? Until you know such things, use scaffolding, and keep your options open.

See also: rock concerts in sports stadiums. Where would they be, without scaffolding? There’s plenty more to be said about scaffolding. For instance, I haven’t even mentioned, in this, how beautiful it can look. Functionalism in its purest and more elegant form.

Plus, I reckon that there is something a lot like scaffolding on the inside of those canvass hutches where Churchy and co did their radio chat.

Surrey sinking fast against Kent. Sam Curran: out. Also: shame. India now 24 for 4, with the last ball of the tenth over. Karthik out. Matt Henry now has three wickets. This time, for some reason, I was able to shove the line back and hear them describe it. Great catch, they’re saying. And I’ll be able to watch the replay of it very soon at the BBC website. (See the “Aggers” link above. No Aggers today, though.) Thought: This is a situation absolutely made for MS Dhoni.

LOL!!!!: Kent, needing a mere 120 to beat Surrey, 0 for 2 after just five balls. Morne Morkel x2.

However it all ends, this is turning into quite a fun day.

LATER:

The scaffolders were thoroughly upstaged, I fear, which they must be very used to.

The key moment, near the end, was the running out, by about an inch, of MS Dhoni for 50. NZ win by 18 runs. Tomorrow: England v Australia, to find out who plays NZ in the final on Sunday. (And Surrey lose.)

Jamie Hannah’s new video

Jamie Hannah is a friend of GodDaughter2, as a result of him having spent a year at the Royal College of Music, going from being a good countertenor to a rather better countertenor. But now he’s giving the pop star thing a go. Judging by his latest video, I reckon the plan just might work.

I’ve heard Jamie Hannah in action twice before, once live and once in the form of a recording. In terms of performing savvy and persistence and general attitude; he seemed to be going about it the right way, but the actual sounds he was making didn’t sound to me that distinctive. Any friend of GodDaughter2 is a friend of mine. But not having anything sufficiently positive to say about Jamie’s work, I kept quiet about it here.

As you can see, that has now changed: If this new video is anything to go by, Jamie is now making much more use his strength; which is his very distinctive countertenor voice.

And, although I know nothing of the technicalities of such things; the production side – the sheer sound of the musical backing and the general ambience – sounds to me like it has taken a big step in the right direction. Whatever he is now doing, I hope Jamie Hannah keeps at it.

Judging by a lot of the comments at YouTube, it would appear that a certain Boy George feels similarly.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

When Elvis met Tommy in Bermondsey

This afternoon I was in Bermondsey, seeing a man about a blog, and without doubt, the oddest photo I took in my Bermondsey wanderings today was this one, of a garage door:

Here is a closer up view of the writing at the bottom:

Right click to get that a lot more legible.

Do you care about this? It made me smile, but I really do not care if it is true. If you do, and haven’t already acquainted yourself with this tale and made up your mind about it, then read this, which merely reports on the claim (made in 2008 by a mate of Tommy Steele’s), or this, which is more scornful, or this, which is very scornful indeed. Elvis did fleetingly visit Scotland, apparently, but was stuck at the airport. The most scornful of these reports is Scottish, assuming that I am correct in believing “Shields” to be in Scotland. Can’t have the damn Sassenachs steeling their thunder. Ho, ho.

Rather surprisingly, I only found one other photo featuring what I photoed today, here. But that could just reflect my inadequacy as an internet searcher.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog